On paper, Thursday’s Taco Bell Viking Cup match-up between the two fifth-ranked girls soccer teams in the state’s two largest classification’s indicated a likely win for 4A Irmo over 3A Brookland-Cayce.
On the pitch, B-C dominated the Yellow Jackets on the way to a 4-0 first-round triumph.Freshman Kathryn Greer scored three goals – a natural hat trick – and sophomore Brooklyn Wagner stepped in for injured senior keeper Whitney Salonich and picked up a shutout.
“It was a great way to open the season, now the challenge for us is to keep it going,” Bearcats coach Katie Smith. “Kathryn showed she knows how to finish chances and Brooklyn did a great job coming in under not the best of circumstances.”
Salonich suffered a knee injury and was taken away for treatment.
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“She just planted wrong and heard something pop,” said Smith. “Hopefully, it isn’t anything serious.”
Greer scored the game’s first goal in the first half on a breakaway, made it 2-0 with a beautifully timed header of a deftly lofted free kick by senior captain Noel McDaniel and converted a perfect two-on-one pass by Kacee Merritt for her final tally. Merritt accounted for the final B-C goal on a late breakaway.
Senior Sarah Laney anchored the Bearcats’ strong defensive play in front of Wagner.
The veteran B-C side is fresh from a 16-7-2 season and a run to the third round of the state playoffs. The Bearcats have higher aspirations in 2012.
“We have loads of leadership from our seniors and we have set some high goals for ourselves,” said Smith. “We had a nice little run last year, but we want to go a little farther this season.”
Josh Puryear did not have a memorable debut as Irmo’s head coach.
“We out-shot then 7-2 but ran into some bad luck in the first half, and things kind of fell apart on us in the second half,” said Puryear, who was an assistant on last season’s 17-4-1 team that won the Region 4-4A championship and last two rounds in the state playoffs.
“We’re dealing with injury issues right now, but once we get healthy I think we’ll put a team on the field our community can be proud of.”
Irmo’s best scoring chance came on a strong run down the left side by Gina Cox with B-C clinging to a 1-0 lead early in the second half. But Cox’s shot under pressure by Laney sailed well wide of the near post.
Host Spring Valley, playing on the adjacent field, opened the Viking Cup with a 1-0 success against a senior-less Chapin team. The Vikings created plenty of scoring opportunities, especially in the second half, but only freshman Ashley Edmonds managed to cash one in with about 20 minutes left to play.